North Harper Creek Falls
6-29-13 - North Harper Creek Falls begins as a long sliding waterfall over exposed bedrock and ends as a 40' high drop over a rock wall shown in the above photo. There are 2 trails to this waterfall, but I'm more familiar with the one beginning on the North Harper Creek Trail. This 3/4 mile trail is moderate in difficulty - maybe difficult for inexperienced hikers - with tricky creek crossings where you will probably have to get your feet wet if water levels are normal and above. It's not good for small children, but probably OK for bigger kids with good coordination, some rock hopping experience, and ones that will obey when you say 'do not go over there'.
Directions: There are several ways to get here, so check your maps for the way that is best from the direction you are coming from. I usually come into this area off of the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile post 311.1 north of Linville Falls which is the intersection of SR1518 (Old Jonas Ridge Rd). Turn right on the gravel road if you are heading north on the BRP from Linville (left turn coming from the Grandfather Mountain area). There may or may not be a green road sign - there wasn't on my last visit to this area. The road begins as gravel, but turns back to pavement. Pass a Christmas tree farm on the right and at 1.7 miles from the Parkway, look for the Long Ridge Baptist church on the right. The main road curves to the right, but continue straight past the church on the narrower gravel FR464. Drive 2.5 miles and turn right on FR58 at a couple of primitive camp sites. Drive another 1/4 mile down to the wide place in the road on the left. The North Harper Creek Trail (#266) begins at this parking area.
The other option is via the North Harper Creek Falls Trail which is a longer hike, but only has one creek crossing. It's just under 1.5 miles to the bottom falls, then another 1/4 mile up if you want to see to slide area. When you get to FR58, don't turn but continue down FR464 for a little less than 2 miles. Pass one trail for Little Lost Cove Cliffs on the right, then FR464A on the left, then continue to the next trail head on the right. It's for both #271A, the other end of the Little Lost Cove Cliffs Trail and #239 which is signed North Harper Creek Falls Trail. I came up this way in 2002, and don't remember it being that difficult. I didn't take good notes, so I don't have details on the trail. I can tell you from looking at the map that there's a change in elevation of maybe 400-500' in 1.3 miles. It comes out on the trail not too far below the section of North Harper Creek Falls shown above and right at Chestnut Cove Branch Falls. This might be a better option for a winter visit and for kids. I'll eventually get back over there to rehike that trail.
Back to trail #266 at FR58. The hike begins with a descent, then quickly levels out before reaching the first creek crossing at about 0.2 miles from the parking area. If water levels are high, you might not be able to safely cross and this will be the end of your hike. Once across, the trail continues following the creek for another 0.4 miles, descending almost 250' in elevation before coming to the next creek crossing. This section of the creek is really nice and has several cascade areas like the ones below, but can be slippery at the rocky areas in wet conditions and icy during the winter.
The trail crosses the creek again in a short distance, then soon arrives at the top of the sliding section of the falls. From here you can walk out on the bedrock and enjoy the slide only if the rock is dry and water levels aren't high. You'll probably notice more trails heading down the left side through the woods, but the official trail to the bottom of the waterfall crosses the creek where you came out at the top of the falls. You may be able to keep your feet dry here, but maybe not. Everything you read says not to ever cross a creek at the top of a waterfall, but that's where the trail goes. The rock is fairly flat at this point, but if the water is running swiftly, it can sweep your feet out from under you. The 2 pictures below are old ones, but the first is down the bedrock a bit looking back up to where the trail crosses at the top. The second is looking down the huge area of bedrock and sliding water to where a group of people are enjoying the day. This is also a great spot to enjoy fall color.
Once across the creek at the top of the falls, the trail gradually descends for about 1/4 mile to river level and comes out at a great camp site near the base of the waterfall. You'll have to rock hop a bit to get up close to the falls, but it's a great place to enjoy a beautiful waterfall. This bottom drop is about 40' high, and from down here you can't see the sliding part at all.
North Harper Creek Falls
Cindy and me
Not too far down the trail is Chestnut Cove Branch Falls. Get back on the trail, cross the creek again back over to the left side and continue down creek. Pass the left turn for trail #239 back up to FR464, then continue down along the falls which is another sliding cascade over rock face. The falls is actually on North Harper Creek - Chestnut Cove Branch comes in from the opposite side at the base of the falls. You'll have to wade in the pool to get the view in the second shot below.
Chestnut Cove Branch Falls
Chestnut Cove Branch Falls
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